There is a ride at Disneyland called Small World which plays one song, “It’s a Small World After All,” over and over and over. By the time the ride is over you know the song by heart. So it is with the Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin song “Tomorrow,” which is sung numerous times in the musical Annie and appears all over the place in skits, ads, auditions, etc. Sometimes it feels like there are only a few songs in the show besides “Tomorrow,” all of which are reprised.
But this is part of the reason for Annie’s success. When it opened in 1977, Broadway was moving away from the hummable musical towards a different kind of music (Sondheim and Hair). Annie is pure nostalgia, reminding the audience of a simpler time and simpler music. Annie made you feel good about America, albeit in an often syrupy way.
Annie is based on the famous Harold Gray comic strip Little Orphan Annie, which in turn was based on a poem by James Whitcomb Riley that made its debut in the New York Daily News in 1924. The strip was ranked number one by Fortune in 1937. It attracted attention for many reasons (war, recession, the Crash of ’29) but was also a favorite of adults because it tackled political commentary about such subjects as the New Deal, organized labor, and communism. The musical as it stands today still points to problems of governance, and the gap between rich and poor. The musical even has a reference to the fall of J. P. Morgan, which received a huge laugh of recognition after the same bank lost over $3 billion just last week.
Annie is currently in rehearsal to reopen on Broadway; this after many tours, revivals, etc. not to mention community theatre and school productions. The production now running in Glendale is at the prestigious Glendale Centre Theatre, the oldest continuous theatre in America. The musical is played in the round, which gives any director a set of challenges. Michael Sterling meets these challenges and more, though he might have resisted the temptation to keep the action moving in a circle to make sure all the audience sees. He has assembled a worthy cast including young Emma Howard who was one of the finalists in New York for the new production there. Peter Husmann makes a fine Daddy Warbucks. Heather Dudenbostel is a lovely Grace. Dynell Leigh is up to the shenanigans of Miss Hannigan, as are Clayton Farris and Christa Hamilton as Rooster and Lily St. Regis respectively. Sandy is played by Cooper the Dog. Annieopened on May 17 and will be there “tomorrow” until June 30 at Glendale Centre Theatre.